Dear Jess, I Could Not Be Saving The Universe Right Now If I Were Not So Morally Certain You Should Be Fucking Me And Not Your Husband

You know how, back in the very beginning, we referred to "Crap Email From A Dude" as a public service? This one is not only a public service, it's a meta public service, because its sender, "Richard," is actually himself a servant of the public, which is to say he is a "political activist", which is to say he is, in his own words "as the late, great Molly Ivins once wrote, 'ever optimistic to the point of lunacy,'" which is to say we're with him on the lunacy part. Anyway, Richard has been in love — deep, rapturous, TRUE, empirically irrefutable Love — with his good friend Jess for ten years, and the only thing standing in the way of their eternal marital bliss is that she's never, um, actually liked him in that way and by the way about five years ago she met someone else and married him. This was, obviously, a grave mistake on the part of Jess, and herewith we present Richard's legal brief as to just how big a mistake it was, for your enjoyment and also, for the greater good: as a certain optimist we once dated pointed out, it provides some terrific insight into the activist mind. If they want something bad enough, they surely deserve it, and if they cannot get it, then they'll make do with the last word. Or in this case, words. Many, many, many words. And numbered bullet points! Oh, and something to remember: he has never so much as made out with her.

Jess,

It never fails to amaze me that despite what I consider my gift for words, I so often fail to express myself clearly when we broach this topic. If I gave the impression of condescension, or even the suggestion that I know better than you (or anyone else in the world) who the right person for you is, I completely failed to make my point. And since I have also been doing some thinking along these lines since we spoke, this is a good opportunity to respond — and, I hope, clarify.

Surely you know me well enough by now to realize I would never be so presumptuous as to condescend to you or attempt to make your decisions for you. I have complete and utter respect for your autonomy, and your strongly independent nature is one of the many things I admire about you. If what I said had even the faintest suggestion of condescension, please accept my apology. That was absolutely not my intention.

What I was trying to convey — obviously very inartfully — was the depth of my hurt at your decision to marry Jonathan. I have tried almost every way I know besides doing sign language while standing on my head yodeling the national anthem to explain to you why the entire situation is so painful for me and why I take it so personally. It seems manifestly obvious and glaringly self-evident to me why being rejected for another man is hurtful and why it would cause tension in our relationship. But there still seems to be some confusion here, so in the interest of disambiguation I will do my best to explain further.

Let me stipulate first, just for the record, what you have already alluded to: My ignorance of the details of your relationship with Jonathanis pretty much comprehensive. As you suggest, this is by design. For reasons that I think should be (but apparently aren't) obvious, your marriage is a source of constant hurt for me. And because my personal predilections do not tend toward the masochistic, I prefer to spend as little time thinking about it as possible. I would rather not dwell on the particulars of a relationship that feels to me like a personal affront, a slap in the face and a complete negation and mockery of my feelings. So yes, I will readily plead guilty to ignorance.

Given that admission, how can I say with any authority that you made a mistake? Because of something I *do* know — something that by your own admission you failed to consider when making your decision.

Do I think that you rejected every other man you know when you decided to marry Jonathan by literally writing out a list and weighing pros and cons of every single one, marking off names one by one in a conscious, deliberate process of elimination? No, of course not. If any woman in the history of the human race has done that, I would be shocked. And I pity the poor guy who ended up with her. Obviously people don't maketheir decisions that way.

But the idea that a man you have known, and by your own admission loved, for such a long period of time — a man who I think we would both agree has played a major role in your life — did not enter your consciousness, ever, even for one single fleeting instant, when you weighed such a decision seems wildly improbable to me. If our roles were reversed, I can assure you your feelings would be a major factor in my decision whether to marry another woman. (Actually, the whole scenario is preposterous to begin with because if you were single, another woman wouldn't even enter into the equation. But I'm sure you get my meaning.) Yet you say I was never even so much as a passing consideration when you thought about marrying Jonathan. As I said, this strains credulity nearly to the breaking point in my view. But OK, since I have no reason to doubt you or to think you would lie about this, I will take you at your word.

If this is indeed the case, then you obviously did not consider several particularly salient facts. To start with the most important one, I am, and always have been from the instant we met, completely in love with you, Jess. Head over heels, madly in love with you in a way that still makes every other instance of "love" I ever thought I'd felt in my life feel like a silly, fleeting crush. I have tried my best to convey to you the depth and breadth of that love and its immense importance to me. I am sure you know intellectually that I'm in love with you. You'd have to be pretty oblivious not to at this point! But I simply can't believe that it doesn't have at least *some* effect on you emotionally, especially since these feelings are very obviously reciprocated. I know that despite that tough veneer, you are an exceedingly sensitive soul. Surely somewhere in your heart of hearts, my profession of love means *something* to you or touches you in some way. But that apparently didn't register at all when you made your decision. Seems to me like a pretty big thing not to take into account when considering something so major and life-altering.

I could go on and on about the other things you *didn't* consider about me, many of which would make me sound quite egotistical. If I were less modest, I might point out the fact that I'm intelligent, interesting, funny, a great conversationalist and an even better listener, a blast to be around, and, if I do say so myself, pretty damn easy on the eyes. You might also have considered the powerful chemistry we have. Or perhaps you might have given some thought to the fact that I'm a thoroughly decent guy who is utterly devoted to you and would never even think about mistreating you or being abusive or unfaithful. And even though I'm not entirely certain either one of us knew it at the time, there is also the undeniable fact that we would be remarkably compatible sexually. (Was that last part crossing the line? Wait, who gives a shit! We're not censoring ourselves anymore, right?)

There is a lot more you didn't consider, but I have no desire to sound like a raving egomaniac. And besides, I think you get my drift.

You would obviously get pissed if I brought up Jonathan in this e-mail and tried to explain, as I have in the past, why I believe I would be better for you than he is. And frankly, given the ignorance I have already owned up to, you would be fully justified in doing so. It would make you defensive if I tried to make that comparison, and understandably so. I don't have any right to pass judgment on things I don't know anything about. And that's the wrong way to go about this, anyway. It occurs to me that attempting to make my point by trying to compare the two of us, as I have for years, has been counterproductive because it just makes you mad and causes us to talk past each other. And it has also missed the point.

It is silly, as you said to me the other day, to compare relationships (or, I guess, potential, hypothetical relationships), which are as different and varied as the people in them. I absolutely agree. Luckily, it's not even necessary in this case. There is no need to even bring your relationship with Jonathan into this discussion, because its relative merits don't have even the slightest bearing on what I'm trying to say. My contention is not that you made a mistake by choosing to be with him. I'm not qualified to say one way or another. Your relationship itself is not a topic I have any knowledge of or authority to speak on. Rather, my argument is that you made a mistake in *not* choosing to be with *me*.

How do I know you made a mistake? Because I know what *I* am capable of. I know I have a tremendous amount of love to give. I know what a caring and committed boyfriend, husband and (eventually) father I would be. I know you and I would complement each other in any number of ways that would enrich both our lives. I know we would be good for each other, treat each other well and support each other. I know we would always enjoy each other's company and continue to share great conversations that are thoughtful, challenging, fascinating, and sometimes just downright fucking hilarious. I know all of this and the many other reasons you and I would be good together, and I would bet every cent I have that you do, too.

Your informal poll of friends and acquaintances and their opinions of your relationship is mildly interesting. But I'm a bit perplexed as to what you believe your findings prove. Are they supposed to be dispositive of something? I have a fundamental problem with the idea that because everyone in an admittedly skewed and biased sample believes something, I'm automatically wrong. That's especially true in this case, where everyone you've talked to has only one side of the story. Do any of these people know me? Have any of them seen us together? Do they know anything about our history, how we interact, how we relate to each other? Do they have any idea of the kind of bond we share, the kind of relationship we have, or what we have meant to each other? If not, I see no reason in the world to give them even the slightest credence. Your friends — some of whom, I would respectfully suggest, *might* be telling you what you want to hear — are missing some very crucial pieces of information, and I know that as a good empiricist you can appreciate how such a survey doesn't even come close to conforming to the scientific method. Your findings would not pass muster in Ted Arrington's Research Methods class! But if you still feel this anecdotal evidence is valid somehow, I could round up signed affidavits from a number of people who have told me you and I would make a good couple. :)

I hope you realize I would never under any circumstances presume to dictate any of your decisions, let alone one as major as who you spend your life with. But I do feel obligated as a "friend" (which I put in quotes to demonstrate its utter inadequacy in describing our role in each other's lives) to point out when I feel you have made a big mistake. And in this instance, I feel entirely confident in saying you have. Even if I knew every aspect of your relationship with Jonathan, even if I had been present every single moment from the instant you met until right this second, I would still feel exactly the same way. This is not because of anything specifically to do with him, or your relationship with him, but because of the fact that you foreclosed even the possibility of being with me without even so much as a second thought — without even a *first* thought, apparently — thereby denying both of us what I am positive would have been a mutually rewarding and happy relationship. I believe, with all my heart and soul, with every fiber of my being, with absolute moral certainty, that that was a huge mistake on your part. I have never been more sure about anything in my life. I do not wish to diminish or belittle the way you feel about Jonathan, but I can't even begin to imagine how you think stories about your first dates or an opinion poll of your friends would ever change my mind about that.

I hope this has shed at least a little more light on why I feel the way I do. What it boils down to, at its essence, is this:

1) I am, always have been, and always will be, in love with you.

2) You have given me many, many indications over the years, both obvious and maddeningly, indecipherably subtle, that you are in love with me.

3) Your decision to marry another man in spite of those feelings is hurtful because it feels to me like you don't take them seriously.

4) Your refusal to even consider me as a potential life partner is both painful and, frankly, inexplicable.

It is a bit more complicated than that, but that is a pretty accurate bullet-point summary of the basic issues here as I see them. I don't imagine we will ever see eye to eye on this, but I hope even if you don't agree you'll at least see where I'm coming from and why this is such a big deal to me.

I know that even though I've tried to be concise here, I have written you a novel. There is a great deal more I could (and almost certainly will) say, but I probably should start wrapping this up. Before I go, though, I want to leave you with a bit of food for thought. You don't have to respond to if you don't want to, but I hope you will at least mull it over.

I am, as the late, great Molly Ivins once wrote, "ever optimistic to the point of lunacy." I couldn't be a political activist and care as much about the fate of the world as I do without a strong sense of hope and a belief that things will turn out right in the end. That hope and optimism also makes me, by my very nature, an incurable romantic. I believe in happy endings, and I always hold out the hope that unrequited love will eventually be requited, that people who have been separated by wars, disasters, their own hurt feelings and pride, or simply the fickle hand of fate, will eventually end up together again. Being a romantic means I don't believe there is a statute of limitations on love. I don't accept the notion that "we could never be together because we've known each other for 11 years, so it obviously wasn't ever meant to be." I believe that things happen in their own good time and that things eventually turn out as they should. There have been untold numbers of stories of people who knew each other in high school or college and then married other people but eventually got together years or even decades later and lived happily ever after. What's the lesson here? Love doesn't know any arbitrary deadlines.

My optimism would also never allow me to go into a relationship, or even contemplate a relationship, by automatically thinking about the worst thing that could happen. It would never even occur to me to think about a relationship with you and then say, "Boy, I'd sure love to be with Jen, but if one of us ending up doing something totally appalling and unforgivable and we broke up, we'd never even speak to each other again." First of all, I can't imagine what cruel, horrific thing you think one or the other of us would do that would cause such an irreparable rift in our relationship that we'd never even be friends again afterward. But even beyond that, the very idea of starting a relationship by obsessing about the worst-case scenario strikes me as perverse at best and a self-fulfilling prophecy at worst. Damn, there I go being a naive optimist again. :)

OK, that really is enough for now. Please remind me when we talk on the phone again - maybe at some point this weekend? - to tell you the story of Dennis Kucinich and the wristwatch! (How's that for a teaser?)

Love you, darlin'...

—R